ICTY judge disqualified for demonstrating bias


In an unprecedented decision, a judge at the International Criminal Tribunal on Yugoslavia (ICTY) has been disqualified before the end of a case.

Danish Judge Frederik Harhoff was removed from a case he was hearing because of a letter he wrote in June.  

The decision comes only two months before the planned announcement of a verdict in the case against Serbian politician Vojislav Šešelj, accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Šešelj, who has been indicted for crimes committed at the beginning of the nineties in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, asked the president of the court to disqualify Judge Harhoff for alleged inclination to convict accused persons of Serbian ethnicity.

In the letter circulated to 56 friends and associates, Harhoff had criticized recent decisions at the ICTY as a "departure from the previous 'set practice' of convicting military commanders," and said that the acquittals of Croatian General Ante Gotovina, former chief of staff of the Yugoslav Army Momcilo Perisic and former head of Serbia’s State Security Service Jovica Stanisic, were the result of politically motivated pressure on judges exerted by ICTY President Theodor Meron.

Harhoff raised speculation that the “military establishment in leading states such as USA and Israel” were imposing pressure on the court because of  concern for any precedents in future cases against their own citizens.

Harhoff’s removal has raised many complications for the ICTY. Legal experts say options include assigning a replacement judge, ordering a new trial, or throwing out the case entirely on the grounds that the process was flawed.

Šešelj has already been in custody for ten years. In closing statements last year, prosecutors demanded a conviction and 28-year sentence, while the accused, who is self-represented, seeks acquittal.

Story Sources: Balkan Insight, Deutshe Welle, IWPR.

Photo: Srebrenica Memorial outside Potocari, Bosnia and Herzegovina. All rights reserved by canasam